Who doesn’t love a good treehouse? Many of us spent our childhood in humble little forts tacked haphazardly to the branches of a backyard tree, but some people carry the tradition into adulthood with structures that are almost the size and complexity of a standard house. In Norway, a new creation by architecture firm Helen & Hard maintains the plucky spirit of handmade wooden treehouse, but elevates it (literally and metaphorically) into a beautiful modern getaway.
“Woodnest” references the traditional wooden architecture of the area as well as the nests of birds and other woodland creatures. Suspended about 18 feet off the forest floor, the structure attaches to a living pine tree with a steel collar. The architects envision it as a place where visitors can pause to appreciate the smaller details of the natural environments we inhabit as well as the grain of the timber in the treehouse itself.
Measuring just over 160 square feet, “Woodnest” is organized around the central tree trunk, and there’s a lot more to it than you’d imagine at first glance. There are four sleeping areas as well as a bathroom, kitchen and living space to enjoy, along with panoramic windows offering views of the fjord below and the mountains on the other side.
“Stemming from the client’s wish to create a unique spatial experience that connects to both the ordinary and extraordinary sensation of climbing and exploring trees, our aim was to create a space that truly embodies what it means to dwell in nature. The journey to the site begins with the 20minute walk from the town of Odda, on the edge of the fjord and up through the forest via a steep winding path. Each treehouse is accessed via a small timber bridge, leading the visitor off the ground, into the structure and up in to the tree.”
“At the very core of the project is the appreciation of timber as a building material.”
” Inspired by the Norwegian cultural traditions of vernacular timber architecture, together with a desire to experiment with the material potential of wood, the architecture is structurally supported by the tree trunk itself, and formed from a series of radial glu-laminated timber ribs. The untreated natural timber shingles encase the volume creating a protective skin around the building, which will weather over time to merge and blend with the natural patina of the surrounding forest.”
The wooden bridge leading to the treehouse from the path brings a little bit of playfulness to the project. Is it enough to make you want to design your own, or what?
Gazing out at the treetops just never gets old. It’s a simple pleasure that grounds us, reminding us to be grateful for the natural world. Cabins that make prime forest views a top priority achieve a special kind of ambiance that doesn’t rely on any kind of luxuries, just the presence of the trees and their calming characteristics.
A recent project by Midland Architecture in Belmont County, Ohio calls treehouses to mind with its peaked roof and location on the edge of a ridge, making it level with the crowns of many trees just beyond its windows. Built sustainably off the grid, “The Hut” was featured on an episode of the Discovery network’s Building Off the Grid series, and received a 2019 AIA Ohio Architecture Honor Award.
Set in a secluded location, the cabin is rustic, but never dark or drab. Plentiful windows and skylights let natural light filter through the trees to enter, but it’s the Eastern White Pine interiors that really make it pop. Check out how the whitewashing of the floors allows the grain to shine through, while the vertical paneling draws the eye up to the high ceiling, making the space feel bigger than it is.
“The cabin, tucked in woods, was a labor of love for Greg Dutton, his brother Chris and father John, who worked together to build the secluded retreat. The project site, now a working cattle farm, which the family purchased in 1981, was originally part of a strip mine, and through their stewardship, has been reclaimed by forest, grasslands and lakes.”
“The off-grid retreat was inspired by Scandinavian design and the ‘hygge’ mindset. The structure is sided with cedar shingles and sits amongst trees, atop a high bank overlooking a lake. Designed for peace of mind; the outside setting is brought in through a wide expanse of floor to ceiling windows. Touching the earth lightly with a minimalistic foundation of concrete piers the sustainably built space runs off solar power and collected rainwater.”
“Heavily influenced by aspects of farming, the cabin was constructed using building techniques born out of tradition and logic, with simple materials used economically. The overall concept and design for the retreat demonstrate an emphasis on craft, in a style that we like to call ‘country minimalism.’”
A modern three-story treehouse weaves through Graven Woodland Gardens in Arkansas, seemingly hovering in the air. Owned by the University of Arkansas and built by American architecture firm Modus Studio, the Evans Tree House looks down onto a children’s garden designed to encourage kids to interact with nature. It’s made of 113 ribs – ten of them steel, the rest made of heat-treated pine.
“The steel ribs and spine act as a skeleton, a vertical framework, connecting the top and bottom spines and floor plates to the six pair of columns,” the architects told Dezeen. “Steel ribs follow the same form created by the wood ribs to help conceal the structural framework of the treehouse and further the goal of creating a mysterious figure in the woods.”
“It is intended to camouflage itself into the landscape and be of the ecology of the place – organic, yet alive and mysterious in nature, purposefully inspiring children’s imaginations about the forest.”
Its shape is certainly suggestive of an enormous creature, and as visitors walk around on the ground and look up at it from below, it almost seems to transform and change shapes, looking different from every perspective. An elevated walkway connects the treehouse to an adjacent boardwalk. Inside, openings offer views of the forest, while mesh-covered play areas let kids climb around safely.
This creative project is a cool example of how pine can be used in outdoor applications, and we especially love the unusual shape the wood takes to give the treehouse its signature profile.